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Organs On Demand: Best 3D Bioprinting Stocks (June 2024)

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Life-Saving Organs

A lot of biotech research is focused on fixing problems. It can be fighting off pathogens, repairing a damaged gene, or eliminating cancerous cells. However, such “small” treatment is still unsolvable for some medical issues.

A damaged kidney needs to be replaced. Some heart attacks are so massive that only a transplant can solve the problem.

This is why organ donation is such a big deal. It saves hundreds of thousands of lives. It often requires heavy medication to avoid rejection by the receiver's immune system, but it is still worth it.

But organs are hard to find, even more, compatible organs. This is why 42,000 transplants were performed in 2022. But 104,234 people were still on a waiting list.

This waiting can sometimes be a mere inconvenience. But most of the time, it causes the patient's conditions to worsen or kill them before a transplant is available.

Organs-On-Demand Manufacturing

This chronic shortage of life-saving organs is why researchers have long dreamed of growing such organs in labs. It could also have the added advantage of being grown for the patient's own cells, removing the risk of transplant rejection.

Of course, this proved a little difficult:

  • Organs are not programmed to grow alone but only as part of the whole body during embryogenesis.
  • Adult size organs are not what normal growth patterns generate.
  • Our cells do not spontaneously revert to stem cell/embryo-stage level to re-differentiate into mature organs.

Stem cell research has made a lot of great progress, some already converting into medical innovation. (You can read more about it in our article “5 Best Stem Cell Companies to Invest In (April 2023))

A very hard wall researchers hit is how to turn these stem cells into fully formed and functional organs. Especially as functional organs result from complex intertwined tissues, for example, a heart will be made of blood vessels, muscles, connective tissues, nervous cells, etc.

Growing up a full adult would be highly unethical and dystopian, even if it can inspire Sci-Fi movies like The Island.

This was until the invention of 3D bioprinting.

3D Bioprinting

3D printing, or additive manufacturing, is now a relatively familiar technology. It started with plastic filaments and is now getting doable with many more materials like metals. And the next frontier is printing organic tissues.

By adding cells individually, in complex 3D layouts and multiple layers, 3D bioprinting can replicate the exact shape and texture the organs should have.

One of the first successful proofs-of-concept was done at Wake Forest University in 2016, with a functional and viable 3D-printed ear.

(You can read more about bioprinting on this Wake Forest University page.)

Still nascent, the bioprinting industry is expected to be worth $1.2B by 2028, according to 3dprint.com.

And a staggering $100B for the entire 3D printing market by 2030.

(You can read more news about bioprinting at the corresponding tag at https://3dprint.com/tag/3d-bioprinting/ and their great explainer articles series at https://3dprint.com/google-search/?q=Bioprinting+101 )


Best 3D Bioprinting Stock

(The sector is still very early and highly risky. So “best” refers to subjective assessments of the technology itself and the company's chance to become profitable before it runs out of funding.)

A complete list of all 119 bioprinting companies (most of them not publicly listed) from 2019 can also be found here.

1. 3D Systems Corporation

finviz dynamic chart for  DDD

A leader in 3D printing, with 1000+ patents and able to 3D print 130 materials, producing more than a million parts daily.

It moved into bioprinting in 2017 with a research collaboration with United Therapeutics (UTHR). It also acquired bio-ink maker Allevia in 2021. And it announced a collaboration with CollPlant Biotechnologies (CLGN) in 2020.

Source: 3D Systems

It currently commercializes 3 models of its Allevi bioprinter.

Source: 3D Systems

In 2021, the company’s revenues were equally split between industrial and healthcare.

64% of revenues are recurring (material, software subscription, etc…). It is equally interesting to see that 47% of the company’s clients in 2021 were new clients, showing the quick growth of the industry and 3D Systems client base.

The company is targeting $1B in revenues by 2027, of which 20% would go to adjusted EBITDA.

3D Systems is probably one of the “safest” 3D printing stocks, as a leader in the sector and already firmly established in the healthcare segment.

2. Desktop Metal, Inc.

finviz dynamic chart for  DM

Another large 3D printing leader with 650+ patents, 250+ possible materials, and 6,000 customers.

One of its key focus centers has been metal 3D printing, a target long sought after by the 3D printing industry.

https://d1io3yog0oux5.cloudfront.net/_c22dffbdb1b6b24485fb9a63b4f875b6/desktopmetal/db/858/7568/pdf/DM+Investor+Presentation+-+IR+Site+-+Q4%2722+%281%29.pdf

It is nevertheless active in healthcare as well, starting from its acquisition of German EnvisionTEC, including its dental care technology.

This resulted in its Desktop Health 3D printer. It is more of a scaffold printer than a full cell/organ 3D printer, but if bioprinting permanently requires hydrogel or other polymers as a scaffold, this will be a strong selling point for Desktop Health.

Despite its impressive technology, the company is struggling to profit. It has recently had a $100m cost reduction program and seems to have relied on selling convertible bonds to make ends meet.

This financial trouble has somewhat hurt the stock price but might also be seen as an opportunity for daring investors. They will also want to pay close attention to the rest of Desktop Metal's portfolio, as most of its short-term revenues will come from polymers and metals more than the healthcare segment.

3. Cyfuse Biomedical K.K.

finviz dynamic chart for  4892.T

The Japanese company was founded in 2010 and started selling 3D printers to researchers in 2013.

Its focus is producing tissues and organs without any artificial scaffolding, only the cells themselves, through its S-Spike platform. This is an ambitious goal, but also the final form of 3D bioprinting will likely be adopted over time.

The absence of scaffolding could prove crucial to producing “premium” organs as close as possible to native organs. The technology can only 3D print 2-3cm organ pieces at a time.

It targets 4 segments: articulations, liver, nerve, and blood vessels.

It could also be used to create “training” organs for surgeons, helping them learn without risking a patient's life.

Cyfuse is, for now, not profitable (after a brief period of profit in 2021) but is already registering a few million dollars in revenues.

This company is for patient investors, counting on this technology to become more mainstream and improve to the point where it can build full organs at once in one block.

4. Materialise NV

finviz dynamic chart for  MTLS

In general 3D printing, Materialise is active in both industrial and healthcare 3D printing.

For now, its healthcare segment is highly focused on prostheses and 3D visualization. The company also boasts one of the world's largest 3D Printing Factories with 185 industrial 3D printers.

So, Materialize is a more “conventional” 3D printing company if we call it that way. Nevertheless, its prosthesis and #3D models are helping up to 50,000 patients annually.

It is also somewhat profitable, only sometimes with a negative income due to massive R&D spending.

The healthcare segment has grown by 15% between 2021 and 2022.

Source: Materialise

So investors that are maybe uncomfortable with the risk of organ 3D printing might prefer the “safer” approach of Materialize to turn 3D printing into a routine component of healthcare. In this case, what will matter the most will be its ability to compete with larger Desktop Metal and 3D Systems.


Bonus Stock: Lab-Grown Meats And Steakholder Foods

finviz dynamic chart for  STKH

Steakholder is best described as a lab-grown meat company, which we covered in the dedicated article “Top 5 Lab-Grown Meat Stocks to Invest In (April 2023)”. Nevertheless, it uses a similar technology to the 3D bioprinting companies to create 3D printed cultured eel.

The segment of cultured meat could be one of interest for “conventional” 3D printers, considering the technological overlap between the two. So, investors in one topic might want to keep an eye on the others and be on the lookout for partnerships and M&A between the 2 sectors.

Jonathan is a former biochemist researcher who worked in genetic analysis and clinical trials. He is now a stock analyst and finance writer with a focus on innovation, market cycles and geopolitics in his publication 'The Eurasian Century".